New York Rangers: Can Brad Richards Bounce Back With New Coach?

By Casey Drottar
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago that Brad Richards was the free agency darling every team was courting. Having just finished up his contract with the Dallas Stars in 2011, Richards was courted by many teams, in an attempt to recruit the top available player. It was for good reason, too, as he had just come off a 77 point season in Dallas.

Eventually, he signed a nine year, $58.5 million contract with the New York Rangers. It was an incredible haul for Richards, but it also set the bar for very high expectations. He had played with then coach John Tortorella before, winning a Stanley Cup with him as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It seemed like a perfect fit.

For one season, at least, it looked like this was going to work out. Richards’ first year with the Rangers saw his goal and assist numbers dip, but only slightly when compared to the previous year, ending the season with 66 points.

Season two, however, was a different story. He scored 11 goals and 23 assists, which is just OK for a player at his level. Come postseason, however, he was a mess. He only had one point to his name 10 games into the playoffs. The final blow came in the form of being scratched from the final two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins.

It’s not often you see someone get paid over $50 million to watch the game from the stands.

At 33 years of age, he’s not quite in his prime any more, but he should hypothetically have something left in the tank. All we know is that the Rangers are paying him way too much for him to flame out like he did in the playoffs.

After firing Tortorella, the Rangers are now bringing in new coach Alain Vigneault from the Vancouver Canucks. Where Tortorella’s system focused heavy on defense and shot blocking, Vigneault likes to harp on fast tempo offense.

Richards has already claimed that he’s looking forward to more “fun” with Vigneault’s system. But will it rejuvenate him the way Rangers fans would hope?

It was no secret that the Rangers were appearing to have grown tired of Tortorella’s schtick near the end of the season. Is this why Richards slumped? That, we don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone.

Vigneault will certainly employ strategies focused on scoring as much as possible. If Richards indeed has a few more good seasons in him, this should more than help pick up his point production.

If, however, last year was a signal that the end of his glory days are fast approaching, if not already here, New York has an issue on their hands. The last thing they want to do is buy out that contract, and there can’t be a ton of teams willing to pick it up at the trade deadline.

The Rangers’ new coach definitely has the ability to give Richards a little jump-start, in terms of getting scoring chances. Whether or not Richards has it in him to convert these opportunities remains to be seen.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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